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Old 05-10-2004   #1
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 4
A big hit to the ego.

I took a trip to a blown out dam (basicly the only ww in michigan) last week and found out that I cant do anything in current. I am used to paddling in 6-7ft waves in Lake Michigan. When I tryed to surf the 1.5ft wave on the dam, I couldnt even stay on it. My front would get sucked under and I would flip. Is this something that I am doing wrong, or is it just a really crappy wave?

One more question... How is the Class of ww measured? Can you tell just from looking at a rapid what class it is?

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Old 05-10-2004   #2
thecraw's Avatar
Boulder, Jackson Kayak, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 911
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The big question here is:

What type of kayak are you using?

The smaller questions are:

Do you have WW skills?
If not, trying to learn to WW kayak by simply surfing a wave is, in my opinion, going to be a difficult route.

Is it a surfable wave?
Unless you have seen others doing it there, or know that it is surfable... it might not be retentive enough.

What is happening to your boat is reffered to as pearling (sp?). If your bow pearls, then you need to lift either one of your thighs up (hence lifting one side of your boat) and it will stop it from being thrusted down to the floor of the river.

Good luck. And visit your local paddle shop for some surfing lessons. It's worth it!

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body. But rather...To skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming... WOW !!!! What a ride!!!!!!"
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Old 05-10-2004   #3
pnw, Washington
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,404
Thecraw's question about boat size is directly related to the size of the wave you are trying to surf. If you are used to larger waves then you may have large or older boat that will perl everytime on a smaller wave.
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Old 05-10-2004   #4
Benefits Administrator
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 20
Michigan WW

Where in Michigan? I am, and hang out with, quite a few Michigan transplants to Colorado. Why are you kayaking when you could be windsurfing/kitesurfing?

If you do have a longer boat, you might try sidesurfing (I'm assuming the wave is retentive and pour-over-like). Just keep your upstream knee up or you will experience windowshading. Experiment with leaning forward and back and staying upright to see how your boat reacts.

You will get worked - It's part of the learning process. My friends and I spend many hours doing flat spins in features that would bore the crap out of the more aggressive boaters.

Just like windsurfing - it takes a while to learn to work WITH the natural forces instead of trying to force your boat to do everything. And have fun. It helps to have someone point and laugh at you when you get worked - takes some of the frustration out of it.
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Old 05-10-2004   #5
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 20
Oldie but a Goodie.

International System for Rating Rapids
This section © 2002 by David Petterson of Calgary Paddlers.

Class I, Easy. Fast moving water with riffles and small waves.
Swimming is pleasant, shore easily reached. A nice break from
paddling. Almost all gear and equipment is recovered. Boat is just
slightly scratched.

Class II, Novice. Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels
which are evident without scouting. Swimming to eddies requires
moderate effort. Climbing out of river may involve slippery rocks and
shrub-induced lacerations. Paddle travels great distance downstream
requiring lengthy walk. Something unimportant is missing. Boat hits
submerged rock leaving visible dent on frame or new gash in plastic.

Class III, Intermediate. Rapids with moderate, irregular waves which
may be difficult to avoid. Water is swallowed. Legs are ground
repeatedly against sharp, pointy rocks. Several eddies are missed
while swimming. Difficult decision to stay with boat results in
moment of terror when swimmer realizes they are downstream of boat.
Paddle is recirculated in small hole way upstream. All personal
possessions are removed from boat and floated in different
directions. Paddling partners run along river bank shouting helpful
instructions. Boat is munched against large boulder hard enough to
leave series of deep gouges. Sunglasses fall off.

Class IV, Advanced. Water is generally lots colder than Class III.
Intense, powerful but predictable rapids requiring precise swimming
in turbulent water. Swimming may require `must' moves above dangerous
hazards. Must moves are downgraded to `strongly recommended' after
they are missed. Sensation of disbelief experienced while about to
swim large drops. Frantic swimming towards shore is alternated with
frantic swimming away from shore to avoid strainers. Rocks are clung
to with death grip. Paddle is completely forgotten. One shoe is
removed. Hydraulic pressure permanently removes waterproof box with
all the really important stuff. Paddle partners running along stream
look genuinely concerned while lofting throw ropes 20 feet behind
swimmer. Paddle partners stare slack-jawed and point in amazement at
boat which is finally pinned by major feature. Climbing up river bank
involves inverted tree. One of those spring loaded pins that attaches
watch to wristband is missing. Contact lenses are moved to rear of

Class V, Expert. The water in this rapid is usually under 42 degrees
F. Most gear is destroyed on rocks within minutes if not seconds. If
the boat survives, it is need of about three days of repair. There is
no swimming, only frantic movements to keep from becoming one with
the rocks and to get a breath from time to time. Terror and panic set
in as you realize your paddle partners don't have a chance in heck of
reaching you. You come to a true understanding of the terms
maytagging and pinballing. That hole that looked like nothing when
scouted, has a hydraulic that holds you under the water until your
lungs are close to bursting. You come out only to realize you still
have 75% of the rapid left to swim. Swim to the eddy? What #%^&*#*
eddy!? This rapid usually lasts a mile or more. Hydraulic pressure
within the first few seconds removes everything that can come off
your body. This includes gloves, shoes, neoprene socks, sunglasses,
hats, and clothing. The rocks take care of your fingers, toes, and
ears. That $900.00 dry suit, well it might hold up to the rocks. Your
paddle is trash. If there is a strainer, well, just hope it is old
and rotten so it breaks. Paddle partners on shore are frantically
trying to run and keep up with you. Their horror is reflected in
their faces as they stare at how you are being tossed around! They
are hoping to remember how to do CPR. They also really hope the
cooler with the beer is still intact. They are going to need a cold
one by the time you get out! Climbing out of this happens after the
rapid is over. You will probably need the help of a backboard,
cervical collar and Z-rig. Even though you have broken bones,
lacerations, puncture wounds, missing digits & ears, and a
concussion, you won't feel much pain because you will have severe
hypothermia. Enjoy your stay in the hospital: with the time you take
recovering, you won't get another vacation for 3 years.

Class VI, World Class. Not recommended for swimming.
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Old 05-10-2004   #6
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1997
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 141
Picking up on something thecraw mentioned:

Sounds like you are pearling. As he mentioned, once this happens you can lift a knee in the hope the bow will shed some water and it'll come back to the surface.

But to keep from pearling on a short, steep wave requires that you carve back and forth across the face of the wave to stay higher on it and to stay out of the trough. This will be easier to do in a flat-bottomed boat with some edges.

Also, if you are pearling as you ferry onto the wave, you might try leaning back as you ferry. This will help keep your bow up until you are able to begin to carve. Once you've carved a few time and you're high on the wave, you'll want to sit up straight to have better control over the boat and to keep from falling off the wave.
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Old 05-10-2004   #7
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Jackson, Wyoming
Paddling Since: 94
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 739
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Akahn,That is good stuff...I love it!
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Old 05-10-2004   #8
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 4
I am paddling a Dagger ID 7.0 and I have no white water skills at all. This was the first time I have ever been to ww. The wave might be unsurfable. I have never seen a kayaker on this wave or even neer it. As for taking lessons... I wish I could! There are no kayak shops arround me that are even the least bit knolagable of ww kayaks. I am from near Grand Rapis in western Michigan, but I normally surf in Grand Haven. Lifting a knee is a great idea. I will definatly remember this.

Looking at the information that akahm gave, I think it is high II or low III. But it only lasts for maybe 15ft.

Thanx a lot for the help, and if you have more hints, keep them comming!
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Old 05-11-2004   #9
looking buisy
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 70
you should check out american whitewater and other sites about kayaking. on the aw site (river tools) you can find most of the runs in your erea"with class ratings".this is how i got started 2 years ago, searching the net for info. you really need alot of visual experance from other rivers in order to say yah it's a class ll. after i thought i was ready for class lll i went to a class ll+ surfing hole,and i was amazed at how much bigger it was than a class ll. i also did take a class,but it only helped me in the sense of giving me more confedence to run larger fetures because i had someone there that would most likely try to save my ass. do your homework, read a book, practice on flat water(strokes and roll), and never boat alone. HAPPY BOATING
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Old 05-11-2004   #10
looking buisy
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 70
check out the "east race" in south bend, indiana it's a witewater park,and only 2 hours from grand rapids. i have family in indiana,and always wanted to make the extra 4 hour drive during my visits there in the summer,but never have. one day i will! chow

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